Nicholas Friedman on C.J. Allen’s ‘Snail Explains’, from New Walk 1 (autumn 2010)

Our brand new assistant editor, Nicholas Friedman, discusses a poem from the first issue of New Walk.

Snail Explains by C.J. Allen

Before the proofs of Fibonacci
was the snail that skates on foam,
inching its way through Life and Fate
like a Russian novel, setting

sail upon the wine-dark midnight
lawn. It tastes the air and creeps
along a leaf, it marches like
an army and will scale a wall

with nothing but its slimy grapples.
Snail the metaphorical
non plus ultra when it comes
to sluggish, the proverbial

exemplar: Leaving trails that sparkle
like the strung-out galaxies,
snail explains the stickiness
of time and hauls the helical

burden of its emptiness
as if it were a French horn struggled
on and off commuter trains.
Snail can navigate the blade’s edge

slickly as an acrobat
or yogi, yet it fears the starling,
salt, the sudden carelessness
of god-like footfalls in the dark.

In the old prose chestnut, ‘The Figure a Poem Makes’, Robert Frost asserts that, ‘Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting’. And indeed C.J. Allen’s ‘Snail Explains’ does just that, though the melting is more of a sliming—and the sliming slow and indefinite, like the mathematical and philosophical musings on which poem is built:

Before the proofs of Fibonacci
was the snail that skates on foam,
inching its way through Life and Fate
like a Russian novel…

At once a geometric masterpiece, a brother Karamazov, Odysseus, a lugger of French horns, et al, the snail is of course none of these things. Instead, it is that mostly blank slate upon which we impose meaning for the sake of providing order to our lives (by means of what Frost calls ‘a momentary stay against confusion’). In a sense, the poem suggests that its own meaning is contingent upon our willingness to provide it.

Poems are too often purported to be ars poetica, and yet I can’t read ‘Snail Explains’ without learning something about the poetic process. With a lame shell for a helmet, the poet rather pathetically sets out on the long slog across the ‘wine-dark midnight / lawn’ and leaves behind ‘trails that sparkle’—mere traces of extraordinary effort which last perhaps a moment longer than the poet himself, soon snatched up in a beak or shattered beneath a boot without remorse.

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Join us for the PN Review 200th issue celebrations, Manchester, 8 September

The following is lifted straight from the website of PN Review, one of our favourite magazines. You are very welcome to join us:

PN Review 200th Issue Celebrations!

PN Review 200Join us at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester from 5.30pm on Thursday 8th September for wine, discussion and debate to celebrate the 200th issue of the UK’s leading poetry magazine, PN Review. The evening will include a lecture by Booker-prize longlisted author Patrick McGuinness, who will discussDonald Davie and the history of PN Review. This will be followed by The New Editors’ Forum: a discussion about the future of poetry magazine publishing, chaired by John McAuliffe (Manchester Review) and featuring panel members Rory Waterman (New Walk magazine), Carol Rumens (the Guardian) and James Byrne (The Wolf). There will also be a poetry reading by Tara Bergin and Jeffrey Wainwright. The event is free and all are welcome.PN Review, the outstanding poetry magazine of our time, was founded in 1976 as Poetry Nation by Michael Schmidt and Brian Cox. The complete PN Review digital archive was launched in January. This vast online resource, spanning four decades of literary writing, can be accessed at www.pnreview.co.uk.

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Nicholas Friedman becomes our assistant editor in the US!

We are pleased to announce that Nicholas Friedman has become our assistant editor in the US. This is a picture of Nicholas fulfilling his new role of skippering the good ship New Walk (1/4USS and 3/4 HMS) into a cliff-face, with a smile and a song. He seriously hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing. Nicholas says: ‘become a passenger!

Nicholas Friedman’s  poetry has appeared or is imminently forthcoming in PN Review, American Arts Quarterly, The Sewanee Theological Review, Able Muse, and several other journals. He currently lives in Ithaca, NY.

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New Walk issue 2 is now available!

The front cover of issue 2: April - September 2011

Issue 2: April – September 2011

New poetry from Alice Oswald – the only section of her forthcoming book Memorial (Faber, 2011) to be published in a magazine. Also poems by William Logan, Carrie Etter, Tom Pow, Iain Bamforth, Helen Tookey, John Whitworth, Alan Jenkins, Ian Parks, Jean L. Kreiling, Gareth Reeves, D.A. Prince, Martyn Crucefix and many others.

Essays by J.M. Coetzee on Zbigniew Herbert, Martin Stannard on Philip Larkin’s Letters to Monica, John Pistelli on Gabriel Josipovici and the burden of modernism, and others. Fiction by Bill Jones and Robert McGowan, and artwork by ‘Flying Monk’ John Maher, Clare Johnson and William Jackson.

As usual, the issue also contains a sizeable reviews section, and more.

POSTAGE FREE WORLDWIDE! Visit www.newwalkmagazine.bigcartel.com

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